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The saying “Know thyself” has been prominent across multiple civilizations for as long as history has been recorded. Inscribed on temple entrances in ancient Egypt, and known as the most popular Delphic maxim, this fundamental concept is still being espoused well into the twenty-first century.

Self-knowledge is the beginning of self-awareness and all its potential.

Being effective as a human citizen of the world requires self-knowledge. With good self-knowledge, we are able to work with our strengths and find the best ways to overcome our weaknesses. When we know where we tend to fall short, we can use our strengths to work out ways to compensate.

Lack of self-knowledge leads to poor communication, misunderstandings, and time wasted as we stumble around trying different things without regard to whether we’re likely to make them work. Professionally, few people have the luxury of unlimited trial and error, especially when it comes to leading others. It’s one thing to try something new, but quite another to grasp at leadership tactics when the time and talents of other people are at stake.

This is not to say that trying new things is bad. In fact, we should all step out of our comfort zones on occasion. Few things are as satisfying to a mature adult as discovering previously unknown aptitudes! But as we grow as professionals and leaders, understanding our strengths and weaknesses is both invaluable and mandatory. The concept of self-awareness is about knowing oneself and making the most of that knowledge. It is perhaps the most fundamental leadership skill.

What Is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness begins with self-knowledge. It is taking our self-knowledge and using it to monitor our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. The self is what makes each of us unique, with our own exclusive collection of experiences, beliefs, and abilities. Self-awareness allows us to evaluate ourselves with a degree of objectivity, and it is a primary driver of self-control.

Self-awareness is closely related to the concept of emotional intelligence, and emotional intelligence can only develop in a context of honest self-awareness. The two main components of self-awareness are the things we notice about ourselves and the way we monitor our inner world. It isn’t necessarily about judging ourselves but more about honestly assessing ourselves in a non-judgmental way. Self-awareness is open-hearted and willing to learn.

The human brain is highly adept at storing information about how we react to certain stimuli, triggers, and situations so we’re ready when they reoccur. While the self-conditioning that naturally occurs due to prior experience is valuable, it is even more valuable when we become aware of it and learn to recognize our preconceptions. This is precisely what allows us to step out of our comfort zone and grow.

When we develop our self-awareness, we’re able to come to peace with who we are and manage our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions proactively rather than reactively. In other words, we are able to act consciously and increase our depth of life experiences.

The Difference Between Being Self-Aware and Self-Absorbed

Self-awareness isn’t the same thing as self-absorption. Being preoccupied with oneself is a sure path to egotistical behavior and selfishness. Self-absorption isn’t so much about knowing oneself as it is about being preoccupied with oneself or one’s own situation to the exclusion of other people or the outside world.

A person who is self-absorbed doesn’t show much concern or appreciation about anyone or anything outside their self-interest. They tend not to make the effort to understand other people’s points of view or their feelings. Self-absorption works strongly against the qualities of empathy and compassion – two qualities that are essential for effective leadership. Self-absorption, in fact, is almost the polar opposite of altruism.

Self-awareness looks inward, but it does so as a way of learning to relate to the world better. Self-absorption looks inward only to ensure that one’s own needs are met with little to no regard to the needs of others. Self-awareness recognizes traits that hold us back and looks for ways to compensate or work around them. Self-absorption is too busy focusing on the self to honestly assess ways that certain character traits may be maladaptive or hold us back.

Self-awareness is ultimately a selfless endeavor, while self-absorption is selfish.

When psychologists help people dig deeper into self-absorption, they often find that self-absorbed people are actually afraid of feeling powerless, out of control, or unworthy. Self-absorption is often an effective cover for feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. By contrast, self-awareness recognizes feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability and strives to address them rather than hide them.

How Can You Increase Your Self-Awareness?

One of the best ways to increase self-awareness, perhaps ironically, is learning how to really listen to other people. Hearing what someone says isn’t the same as listening to what someone says. When you learn to listen, you learn to tune into others’ emotions, body language, and choice of words. Learning to do this without constant judgment increases empathy and can help you learn to listen to your own inner voice – without judgment or evaluation.

Another outer-focused practice that’s good for increasing self-awareness is gaining new perspectives. It can be eye-opening to realize that other people don’t view situations the same way we do! Learning to appreciate other people’s viewpoints is a great first step in learning to ask for and listen to honest feedback.

Any executive coach will tell you that gathering 360-degree feedback on a client is tremendously valuable to the coaching process. And when individuals learn to recognize their blind spots and accept feedback, they are rewarded with a fuller picture of themselves and greater self-awareness.

Some people find that maintaining a journal is an excellent way to increase self-awareness. Letting thoughts flow onto paper and then reviewing them later can give us great insight into how certain situations trigger certain thoughts and behaviors.

Most people find that carving out “down time” every day is essential to developing better self-awareness. It’s not always easy being alone with our thoughts without our phones or computers to distract us, but it’s a great way to connect with ourselves.

What Habits Help You Maintain Good Self-Awareness?

The human brain shows remarkable plasticity, well into adulthood. Scientists used to think that changes in the brain only happened during childhood and that by early adulthood, the brain’s makeup was fixed. But more modern research has shown that the brain continues to alter existing neural pathways and create new ones, helping us adapt to new experiences, learn new things, and create new memories.

In the late twentieth century, researchers began to study cases where people who suffered massive strokes were able to regain function – major confirmation of the brain’s continuing ability to change. Typical adults with healthy brains can, in fact, create new neural connections, reorganize neurological pathways, and even create new neurons.

But adult brains often operate on autopilot. This can be tremendously important for activities that require hard-wired “muscle memory” like driving a car, typing, or performing brain surgery. The brain operates in this way to conserve energy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change even deeply entrenched habits. You can, but it requires consistent long-term practice.

Your brain creates new connections based on what you do repeatedly, and that’s one of the reasons it can be so hard to break out of a bad habit or create a new habit. Commitment is the key. The skills you use for building self-awareness must be practiced consistently over the long term so that new thinking patterns and new habits become ingrained. It’s easier said than done, but you can actually use mobile apps to help you strengthen new habits if traditional methods like calendars and reminders aren’t enough.

How Does Self-Awareness Make Leaders More Effective?

Self-aware leaders are better than non-self-aware leaders in virtually every way.

Twenty years ago, two Cornell University psychology professors named Dunning and Kruger published a paper titled, “Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.” You’ve undoubtedly heard of the so-called Dunning-Kruger effect, where people think they are more competent than they actually are. Ignorance of oneself and one’s limitations paradoxically often increases confidence – sometimes with disastrous results.

Without strong self-awareness, we’re quick to fool ourselves into thinking we know what we’re doing when we don’t. In a leader, this can cause projects to fail, people to quit, and revenues to fall. Self-awareness keeps us apprised of our strengths and our weaknesses and knowing both is essential to leading effectively.

The self-aware leader is in tune not only with their own inner world, thoughts, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses but also has better situational awareness (due to stronger empathy). Self-awareness strengthens the individual leader’s performance while helping them elicit the best performance from everyone on the team. Self-awareness, trust, and wisdom go together, and in a leader, those qualities lead to teams that are loyal and hard-working.

Because the self-aware leader is aware of their own limitations, they’re far more likely to continue to strive for improvement. They’re more likely to ask for feedback and to genuinely listen to team members and trust them to contribute to project, team, and organizational success. Furthermore, teams led by self-aware leaders are less likely to be plagued by internal team conflict. In other words, a leader’s self-awareness helps promote self-awareness and its benefits in others.

How Can Non-Self-Aware Leaders Fall Short?

Most of us have encountered leaders who think they excel at a given skill when they don’t. Or leaders who think they’re great to work for, despite driving off the best people on the team. Just about everyone has worked with people who, despite sterling qualifications lack insight on how they are perceived by others. People who lack self-awareness are more than just frustrating: they can severely undermine team success.

While not all workplace conflict is due to lack of self-awareness, much of it is, and it may be based on ill-informed training or not having been led with self-awareness. The good news is that in many cases, people who lack self-awareness may actually want to be effective, but they don’t realize that they’re not.

There’s no question that personality shapes leadership style, which in turns shapes leadership culture, which strongly influences organizational culture. Negative behavioral traits in leaders are often based on ingrained personality traits that may have gone unexamined for a lifetime. A leader who gets results (perhaps through intimidation or other questionable tactics) despite lack of self-awareness rarely is able to sustain success.

Team members – particularly team members with outstanding potential – don’t stick with leaders who employ techniques that are uninformed by self-awareness. Seeing a toxic culture in the making, they’re often the first to leave.

This is not to say that leadership has to be touchy-feely, or that no one should ever have their feelings hurt. It simply means that self-awareness helps leaders develop the leadership skills that get lasting results and that build a strong team and corporate culture, which are necessary for lasting success.

What Are the Personal and Professional Benefits of Self-Awareness?

Developing self-awareness benefits both personal and professional life.

In an ideal world, everyone would experience the benefits of heightened self-awareness. These benefits make both professional and personal life better. When you take the time to develop self-awareness, you can expect the following benefits:

  • Better decision-making and priority setting, based on better self-understanding
  • The joy of taking an active role in life rather than just reacting to things that happen
  • Less tendency to take things too personally – a major time and energy waster!
  • Ability to see missteps and mistakes as opportunities for positive change
  • Understanding of why you do what you do
  • Stronger personal and professional relationships
  • A better foundation on which to set goals and build dreams
  • Better ability to forgive and let go of past wrongdoings
  • Healthier personal boundaries
  • Stronger ability to live in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or future

Whether or not you pursue top leadership positions, self-awareness serves you well. And if you do achieve positions of leadership, it will help you lead more effectively. In fact, self-awareness is so essential to strong leadership that executive coaches regularly work with clients on improving their self-awareness.


Executive coaching today usually focuses on working with high-potential leaders and helping them fulfill their great potential. The ability to lead is based on much more than industry expertise, job experience, or a specific set of skills. Executive coaching is about recognizing strengths, understanding where there is opportunity for improvement, setting goals, and regularly working on the skills that lead to overall excellence.

As an executive coach, I regularly work with clients on skills like communication, delegation, and conflict resolution. All of these skills benefit from a foundation of strong self-awareness. The self-aware person doesn’t assume that people can read their mind, or that team members will naturally know which tasks to tackle. Self-aware leaders can also recognize conflict earlier on and understand that conflicts tend not to go away by themselves but must be addressed with tact and fairness.

In fact, if I could only work on one skill with the leaders I coach, it would be self-awareness, because so many essential leadership skills depend on it. Great athletic coaches want to work with players who have a strong foundation of athleticism because it makes it so much easier to teach them specific game skills. Likewise, executive coaches get the best results when they work with clients who have a strong foundation of self-awareness, because self-awareness powers so many positive thought patterns and actions.

As an executive coach, I can attest to the value of self-awareness in leadership.

If you are interested in delving deeper into how self-awareness powers effective leadership, I encourage you to check out my books, especially Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential. Just as you can’t slap a coat of paint onto an unsound structure and make a home, neither can you turn the person who lacks self-awareness into a great leader by teaching them specific techniques. The most important leadership qualifications come from within, and self-awareness is the key to unlocking those qualifications.

Glossary of Terms

Brain plasticity – the remarkable ability of the human brain to modify its own structure and function based on changes to the external environment, such as the learning of new skills or consistent practice of habits. Though scientists used to think plasticity was all but gone by adulthood, modern researchers have shown that the adult brain has an extraordinary capacity for change improvement.

Cognitive bias – mistakes in reasoning, evaluating, and other cognitive processes that are often the result of clinging to preferences or beliefs despite contradictory information

Corporate culture – the collection of beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that shape how a company’s employees interact with each other and with management, and how they handle transactions with outsiders.

Dunning-Kruger effect – a type of cognitive bias that causes people to mistakenly think that their abilities are greater than they actually are. Self-awareness is the key to avoiding this type of cognitive bias.

Emotional intelligence – a person’s ability to be self-aware and to understand, regulate, and express emotions so as to handle personal and professional relationships with empathy, fairness, and judiciousness

Self-absorption – a person’s excessive preoccupation with their own interests, emotions, and needs at the expense of those of others

Self-awareness – a person’s clear understanding of their own personality, including their strengths, weaknesses, motivations, emotions, beliefs, and thought patterns. Good self-awareness allows for greater understanding of others and of situations, and a better ability to initiate and respond to situations.

The post Why Executive Coaching Must Emphasize Self-Awareness appeared first on John Mattone.

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By the time someone hires me as an executive coach, company buy-in usually isn’t an issue.

Most companies that hire executive coaches know that it is an investment that can have an impressive return.

After all, it is typically the company that is paying for executive coaching, and they wouldn’t do so unless they believed it was an investment with a healthy return.

But getting the company to sign off on payment for executive coaching isn’t necessarily enough to ensure that the coaching client’s supervisors are truly supportive of the coaching process. When clients go the extra mile to ensure that leaders higher up understand what the coaching process involves and to ask for their support, the results of the coaching engagement tend to be better.

Buy-in involves recognizing potential schedule conflicts, a thorough understanding of the potential ROI of executive coaching, and if possible, a direct meeting between the coach and the client’s supervisor before the coaching process begins.

Coaching May Occasionally Clash with Day-to-Day Business Operations

Though coaches and clients work together to create a schedule that causes minimal disruption to ordinary business activities, there may be times when a coach-client meeting interferes with some other scheduled activity such as a departmental meeting.

The coaching client who makes it a point to discuss the specifics of the coaching engagement with superiors right from the beginning can prevent surprises and help come up with workarounds and alternative arrangements to minimize the impact of the coaching process on scheduling matters.

Understanding of Executive Coaching ROI Creates a More Supportive Environment

Most top-level executives understand that coaching has a strong and positive return on investment, but not all of them do. Usually, educating leaders about coaching ROI happens before a coach is hired, but it’s a good idea for the coaching client to be prepared to talk about the specifics of coaching ROI with those who may still be skeptical.

For maximum support for the coaching process, top leaders should thoroughly understand the process, and exactly how it will benefit the organization.

For example, the client could explain to her supervisor that by working with an executive coach on communication skills, she will ultimately prevent misunderstandings, increase business transparency, and do a better job at representing the company and the brand in all types of business interactions.

The client whose goal is to build more effective teams can explain to his boss that coaching will improve company culture, prevent misaligned objectives, and ultimately deliver higher quality and shorter time to market.

Pre-Coaching Conference with Supervisor Can Boost Results

The opportunity to spend about an hour prior to the formal start of the coaching process talking with the client’s direct supervisor is one no coach should pass up. Not only can I learn about the supervisor’s understanding of the coaching process and clear up any misconceptions, but I can also answer questions and help them realize that they have a real stake in the success of the coaching process.

While my interactions with my client are confidential, that doesn’t prevent the client and their supervisor from discussing goals and objectives. In fact, when the client’s supervisor is curious about the process, they are more willing to provide additional support, such as more flexible scheduling on coaching days. Supervisors who are invested in the process from the outside, often indirectly help the client get more out of their work with me.

Company buy-in is fundamental to executive coaching success, and not just because they sign the checks. When those higher up the ladder than my leadership coaching clients genuinely support the coaching process, it tends to help the client maintain their commitment and enthusiasm as well.

Building company buy-in takes time and requires making a solid business case for executive coaching, complete with goals, milestones, and specific projections of how the process will help the organization as well as the individual.

The post Why Company Buy-In Is Critical to Executive Coaching Success appeared first on John Mattone.

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Leadership should get results, or else what is the point of having it?

Achieving excellence in today’s business world requires teamwork.

It stands to reason that the team with a strong leader would perform better than the same team would without a strong leader. Leaders help ensure everything that needs to get done, gets done, and that people’s skills are being put to their best use.

But how can you measure a team’s effectiveness? It’s certainly not as straightforward as measuring quarterly earnings, but it can be done. It’s helpful to think of teams as balancing results and culture, which is what Google found to be the best combination in its quest to determine what makes up the “ideal” team.

The Best Teams Balance Results and Culture

Teams are expected to get results, whether they’re playing basketball or landing a new client. The goal, of course, is to get the best results possible from the team, by ensuring they have the goals, training, and resources they need. Even the team with the greatest interactional chemistry won’t hold together long if it doesn’t get results or consistently fails to reach goals.

At the same time, teams that get stupendous results can implode if the team culture is toxic. If team dynamics are unhealthy, there’s no way to sustain great results over time. Someone will snap, or quit, or deliberately sabotage others’ work, and the results will quickly reflect that toxicity.

Results Should Map to Goals; Culture Should Contribute to Results

Team effectiveness is partly due to goal achievement, and partly due to team members wanting to be a part of it. Therefore, it’s important for team leaders to ensure everyone knows what team goals and individual objectives are, and to measure the achievement of goals and objectives, holding everyone (including themselves) accountable.

But it’s also critical for team leaders to monitor team culture and honestly assess whether it contributes to or detracts from results. Maybe team culture is generally strong, but one or two people feel they are shouldering too much of the burden. Or maybe a team member feels like they’re not being given enough responsibility. It’s up to team leaders to recognize cultural shortcomings and address them.

It’s up to team leadership to ensure team culture drives results and doesn’t detract from them.

Don’t Try to Measure Everything All at Once

When you’re just starting to measure team effectiveness, start small. Perhaps you could designate a team project as a test case, setting a handful of quantifiable KPIs, taking baseline measurements, and then measuring them again at the conclusion of the project. You must also determine the best ways to convert those KPI results into bottom-line impact. Measuring team effectiveness in terms of dollars and cents isn’t the whole story by a long shot, but it gets the attention of executives and helps ensure strong teams can continue their work.

It’s not easy as a team leader to balance the need for measuring team effectiveness with the need to demonstrate that you trust your team to do their best. If you have access to high-quality leadership development programs, you can learn ways to balance the need to sustain a strong culture with the need to demonstrate bottom-line results to those higher up.

Leadership coaching can also help team leaders learn how to develop meaningful metrics, demonstrate accountability, and hold team members accountable without sacrificing a strong team culture. Great communication skills are the key, and leadership coaches often help their clients with this critical competency.

Strong leadership is what separates teams that perform “well enough” from teams that routinely exceed expectations. Learn to balance accountability for results with cohesive, supportive team culture, and you’re on the road to the latter. Learn how to get outstanding results while building a team that is something greater than the sum of its individual members.

The post How Effective Is Your Leadership Team? Here’s How to Find Out. appeared first on John Mattone.

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In 2017, I worked with business and leadership consulting firm BlewMinds to host the very first leadership coaching program of its type in Delhi.

My time in Delhi motivated me to continue pursuing excellence, and I like to think the other participants benefited too.

It was an illuminating experience for me, and I think it’s safe to say that all the participants (including myself) learned a great deal. While I was there, I participated in an interview with BlewMinds partner Shivani Singh, where we talked about the importance of self-awareness in coaching. I invite you to watch our discussion below.

John Mattone Interview with BlewMinds - YouTube

One theme you’ll notice comes up repeatedly is that of self-awareness, of knowing and understanding our innermost tendencies and strengths. You would think that every CEO is well-tuned to that inner core, but it is not as common as you may think.

Your Inner Core May Be Outside Your Comfort Zone

Self-awareness is insight into your own innermost attributes: your beliefs, emotions, character, and values. Self-awareness is remarkably empowering, because knowing yourself honestly and deeply helps you make the best choices. Yet self-awareness isn’t easy for many people. They may be hamstrung by what they think they should believe or feel, and they may try to build an entire identity around beliefs and values that don’t match up with what’s actually inside their soul. At best, it hinders leadership, and at worst, it can lead to burnout and breakdown.

The truth is, many people’s innermost character remains an unexplored territory, and this is a shame. Knowing oneself thoroughly and honestly is actually the key to building true and unique leadership – leadership that is rock-solid and can withstand the winds of change that are constantly blowing in our world today.

Unleashing Sustainable Leadership Requires Looking Within

Identifying our innermost character requires temporarily tuning out the many distractions of modern life.

One thing I comment on in my interview with Ms. Singh is the tendency of many of today’s leadership development programs to focus on things like planning and decision-making. Of course, these “nuts and bolts” aspects of leadership are important, and executive coaches work on them with clients all the time.

But what’s missing is attention to each person’s innermost core character, which is as unique as their DNA. The executive coach who takes the time to help clients look within, identify their core strengths and values and learn how to use them to lead helps unleash leadership that is both effective and sustainable long term. One book that does an outstanding job of exploring this phenomenon is Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and if you haven’t read it, you should.

Ultimately, Executive Coaches Make Themselves Unnecessary, by Design

If you have ever seen a pair of killdeer plover raising their hatchlings, you may have noticed how closely they hover around their young when they make their first trips out of the nest. The parent birds will go so far as to fake injury to lure potential predators away from their chicks. But as the chicks grow, they gradually pull back, giving them greater range, until the day they realize their offspring are prepared to be independent.

Similarly, the executive coach works very closely with their clients at first, offering helpful tools and helping them look within to discover their strengths and learn how to put them to use. I’ve noticed that around the third or fourth month of a nine-month executive coaching engagement, something changes. It’s not exactly an “Aha!” moment, but a general sense that the client has tapped into their core strengths and is ready to start using them in leadership.

As executive coaching clients make progress, the coach is able to step back, offering guidance as needed, but ultimately helping their client discover they can “fly” on their own. In other words, the executive coach makes him- or herself unnecessary, and that’s by design.

I also hope you’ll check out my books, especially Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential, which gives you the tools you need to explore your own inner core character and understand how it can help you lead with maximum effectiveness.

The post Your Inner Core May Be Outside Your Comfort Zone: An Interview appeared first on John Mattone.

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Leadership requires a level head, strategic thinking, and commitment, even when you don’t feel like it.

Nobody can be 100% on-point all the time.

Sometimes stress can be significant enough to affect a person’s ability to lead. Trying to power through stressful times as a leader might work some of the time, but other times it can lead to lapses in judgment or other problems.

Leaders at the top levels of organizations are human just like everyone else. Everyone suffers the “slings and arrows outrageous fortune” whether they’re the Prince of Denmark, the mail carrier, or the vice president for marketing. Positions of leadership are often accompanied by heightened visibility, however, and that visibility can magnify stress.

Examples of Major Stressors That Can Affect Leadership

Most of us are well-practiced in dealing with everyday stressors like spilled coffee or horrible traffic. But sometimes leaders must cope with bigger events, and they are expected to do so with dignity and grace. For example, the death of someone in the organization takes not only an emotional toll but a practical one too. Who will be able to fill those shoes, particularly if the person was well-loved?

When a leader faces a serious illness, either personally, or within the family, the tidal wave of emotion is accompanied by the stress of deciding how much to share with colleagues and how to fulfill work duties. On the flip side, when a leader welcomes a new baby into their family, the sometimes-overwhelming personal changes happen alongside practical planning for getting work accomplished.

Leaders cannot demand perfection from themselves, and they must understand that their honesty and transparency are appreciated by team members. In most cases, people understand, want to help, and don’t expect perfection during times of major life events.

Know and Practice Standard Stress Reduction Techniques

Taking a walk to clear your head really can help.

There will be days as a leader when you’re getting through it minute by minute. It’s at those times when you need to call upon practical stress reduction techniques to keep you on track. Here are a few that are widely used:

  • Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment with openness and acceptance. During times of stress, we tend to replay the past or worry about the future, and mindfulness brings us back to the here and now.
  • Reframing – which helps you achieve three important goals of describing your situation accurately and without cognitive distortions, illuminating your ability to cope with the situation, and seeking a “redemptive” narrative where tough times ultimately bring about something good.
  • Temporarily disconnecting – by stepping away from the desk, avoiding social media, and just spending a few minutes in a different headspace. Take a walk, play a game, watch a silly video, or just sit and breathe consciously for a few minutes.
  • Avoiding multitasking – because it’s usually not as effective as tackling one thing at a time. And under stress, you’re far likelier to make mistakes when you try to multitask, which means you’ll have to fix those mistakes later.
The Importance of Boundaries

The ability to set boundaries between your work life and your home life is essential. There will be times when work life may spill over into personal life, and vice versa, but for the most part, you should have clear boundaries between the two. By separating the two, you position yourself to give each the attention they deserve. How you mark those boundaries is up to you. Some people have a playlist to listen to on the way home, or a particular coffee shop they stop at on the way to the office. There are countless ways to mentally mark the transitions between the personal and the professional.

Leadership coaching is not a substitute for therapy or for the types of professional help people need when they deal with major life crises. But leadership coaching can help people identify ways they inadvertently self-sabotage and limit their potential. The skills that leadership coaches work on with their clients, such as effective communication, delegation, conflict resolution, and time management, are ones that leaders call on in good times and in difficult times.

Nobody expects perfection 100% of the time, even from the most exalted leaders. Leading during times of personal stress is leadership on “hard mode,” but the skills you learn from leadership development programs, from personal experience, and from leadership coaching, stand you in good stead as you face those headwinds and move toward calmer waters.

The post How to Lead Well When Personal Stress Is an Issue appeared first on John Mattone.

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Change management is all of the practices involved in preparing for, equipping our teams for, and supporting people during times of major changes.

Implementing major changes without a change management plan is asking for trouble.

Some examples of changes that benefit from change management include mergers and acquisitions, management structure changes, technology changes, and practical changes, such as moving to a new location.

Implementation of these changes may seem straightforward and have defined steps associated with it, but the fact is, change is hard. People may complain about the slow software they currently use, but changing to a new, better system still presents challenges.

Common hurdles organizations encounter during times of change include stretched resources, competing priorities, climbing of learning curves, and simple fatigue. That’s why so many organizations create change management teams. And senior leadership can have a major impact on the effectiveness of change management.

The Importance of Executive Buy-In During Times of Change

Ideally, everyone in the organization should be enthusiastic about change, but that’s not always the case. Senior leadership can offer reassurance about the necessity of change and show team members that everyone is in it together. Leadership that retreats behind closed doors during times of change doesn’t inspire confidence and can increase frustration when people experience legitimate problems that often come up during major changes.

Even in organizations with carefully designed change management teams, the buy-in of executives is critical. When the change management team believes that senior leadership doesn’t really care, they’re not likely to give their best efforts or go the extra mile to ensure change goes smoothly.

What People Want from Leadership During Change

People need a clear vision of what the post-change organization will be if they’re going to undergo the upheaval of change with enthusiasm. They don’t just need to know that the new software suite will be “better,” but they need to know specifics: “This should cut down on the time needed to process payroll by 40%,” or “The new office building will put Engineering and Design on the same floor, so they can communicate more easily.”

People affected by change don’t just need to know the future will be “better,” they need to know precisely how it will be better.

People also want accountability during change. If leaders say they’ll be provided with high-quality training on the new system, they have to deliver. People also want their leaders to be accessible. Sometimes unforeseen problems emerge, and leadership must step up, understand the problem, and take action.

Finally, people want alignment during times of change. They want to know that everyone is pulling in the same direction and pursuing the same goals. Sure, some people will be more change-resistant than others, but on the whole, the entire organization should be headed in the same direction.

Ensuring Change Accomplishes What It Should

Ensuring that change does get the results expected of it requires that executives and other top leaders demonstrate the qualities they should always demonstrate, such as honesty, trustworthiness, transparency, and good communication. But they must do so with an eye on the change process and how it is progressing.

While people closer to the action should be checking off the myriad tasks required during a major change, senior leadership must also pay attention to what is happening and offer assistance where appropriate. Leadership must also solicit, listen to, and act upon feedback. If there are real problems, leaders must not ignore them or assume they’ll somehow solve themselves. Even if problems do resolve themselves, leadership that has “checked out” of the change management process will only build resentment.

Strong leadership is never more necessary than during times of major change within an organization. Even if the leader’s role is less hands-on, their vision, energy, and tracking of change resonate throughout the organization.

Many of the qualities I work on with my executive coaching clients, such as transparency, accessibility, and excellent communication are the exact qualities that are needed for successful change management. And when senior leadership genuinely buys into major changes and participates, those further down the hierarchy are likelier to do their part in change management with commitment.

I encourage leaders at all levels to check out my books . Those facing organizational changes may particularly benefit from reading Cultural Transformations: Lessons of Leadership and Corporate Reinvention.

The post Strong Leadership Can Make or Break Change Management appeared first on John Mattone.

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Job crafting is reimagining one’s job to find a greater purpose. It typically involves stretching the boundaries of the job description to fit what a person finds meaningful.

People who define their roles to encompass their values find more job satisfaction and deliver better results at work.

An example of job crafting would be the hospital cleaning staff member who, when asked about their work, describes their work as including more than what’s strictly spelled out in the job description. They may, for example, make it a point to interact with patients or visitors every day.

One job crafter interviewed during Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski’s research into social value at work described changing pictures on patient room walls even though patients were unconscious or comatose, in the belief that changing the atmosphere could indirectly benefit those patients. Whether it works or doesn’t work, the sentiment matters, does it not?

Job crafting can take place in any role, any industry, and any profession, and it benefits not only the individual but also the organization in which they work.

Job Crafting and Employee Engagement Closely Linked

As you may expect, job crafting behavior is closely linked to employee engagement. Research recently published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology shows that this is indeed the case. Employees who were encouraged in their job crafting efforts showed higher levels of employee engagement. They were likelier to seek challenges and seek resources, performing their tasks better and enjoying greater career satisfaction. Furthermore, the researchers found that the resource-seeking behavior of job crafters actually created a more motivating work environment.

Empowering Leaders Increase Employee Engagement

Of course, job crafting depends on a person feeling empowered to do more than what is strictly described in their job description. Empowering leaders are those who do more than delegate tasks. They empower their team members to tackle their work in the ways that their expertise and experience lead them.

Leaders who empower team members to use their skills and talents to accomplish tasks in the way they believe is best improve employee engagement.

Empowering leaders have high levels of mutual trust between themselves and those they lead. They avoid micromanaging yet set clear expectations and provide team members with the resources they need. They both give constructive feedback and listen to employee ideas for doing things differently. And they recognize team members for their excellence.

Job Crafting Employees Deliver Organizational Benefits

Job crafting employees led by empowering leaders are not the only beneficiaries of their job crafting behavior. The organization benefits too. When leaders ensure their team members have sufficient autonomy, resources, and encouragement to engage in job crafting behavior, they strengthen employee engagement. And strong employee engagement leads to benefits like:

  • Higher productivity – which shows up in employees going the proverbial extra mile, and having lower absenteeism
  • Stronger job retention – which can save companies the significant costs associated with hiring and training new people
  • More innovative thinking – because of a strong sense of ownership of their work
  • Better customer service – because they’re typically happy at work, positive and proactive, and customers seeking service pick up on those attitudes
  • Higher profits – 26% higher revenue per employee, according to a Wyatt Watson study!

Leadership coaching can help clients become empowering leaders by working on leadership skills like communication, delegation, and empowerment of team members. With the help of a leadership coach, leaders can learn how to encourage job crafting behavior and why it doesn’t lead to chaos, but actually boosts productivity.

And leadership coaching can help leaders do their own job crafting – reimagining their own roles to fit with their values and stretch the boundaries of their work. If you’re interested in learning more about empowering leadership, I encourage you to check out my books as well as my leadership speaking and training services.

The post Empowering Leaders Help Businesses Reap Benefits of ‘Job Crafting’ appeared first on John Mattone.

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Creativity and innovation are necessary for long-term business success. We live in an era when disruption may be just around the corner at any time, and there’s less reason than ever to insist upon the status quo when it comes to products, processes, and business models.

Artificial intelligence and robots can do many things, but creativity is still the product of the human spirit.

Artificial intelligence and robots may be taking over more aspects of business operations, but they cannot replace creativity. Yet there are leadership styles that can effectively stifle creativity, or that do little to promote creativity. Authentic leadership, however, has been found to promote creativity and innovation in the workplace. Here’s what some recent studies have to say about authentic leadership, creativity, and innovation.

What a Study from the Indian Institute of Technology Reveals

study published earlier in 2019 in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management found that among 300 employees in the heavy engineering and automotive industry in India, authentic leadership promoted creativity. The study concluded that organizations can enjoy the benefits of a creative and engaged workforce by selecting and developing authentic leaders.

Researchers concluded that authentic leadership promotes psychological meaningfulness in work and enhances worker engagement and creativity. Authentic leadership additionally was found to have an indirect impact on creativity through an atmosphere of psychological safety.

Portuguese Researchers Reach a Similar Conclusion

Another 2019 study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies observed 177 leader-follower dyads covering 26 private, small and medium-sized companies in Portugal. Followers reported their affective commitment level while leaders assessed follower creativity.

Results showed that an authentic leadership style had a positive effect on both employee affective commitment and creativity. The study concluded that organizations can boost employee creativity by encouraging their leaders to adopt a more authentic leadership style. Authentic leaders are characterized by attributes like:

  • Self-awareness
  • Genuineness
  • Focus on long-term results
  • Leading with both heart and mind
Shandong University Study on Inclusive Leadership and Innovation

Finally, a 2019 study by researchers at Shandong University in China published on PLOS ONE studied the relationship between employee creativity and inclusive leadership, which shares characteristics with authentic leadership. Specifically, “inclusive leadership” as defined by the researchers is a leadership style where the leader’s words and deeds demonstrate an invitation and appreciation for others’ contributions.

Authenticity and inclusivity naturally go together. Both qualities in leaders encourage creative thinking.

Data were collected among supervisors and employees in 15 service-based organizations (such as banking, law, and retail businesses) in six cities in China. The study concluded that inclusive leadership had significantly positive effects on perceived organizational support and on employee innovative behavior.

Authenticity in leadership clearly has positive effects. These studies demonstrate that authentic leadership is associated with higher levels of creativity, engagement, and innovation among front-line employees. Leadership coaching programs that help leaders understand the importance of inclusivity and authenticity may be worth consideration for businesses that want their leaders to have the right leadership skill set to unleash creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Likewise, leadership coaching can address client concerns with understanding, developing, and demonstrating authenticity. With the help of a leadership coach, leaders can gain a better understanding of how they’re perceived by team members and can practice behaviors that demonstrate greater authenticity and inclusivity. These behaviors, in turn, offer an environment that is more conducive to employee creativity and innovation.

Many aspects of business operation must be done “by the book,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, innovation and creativity can’t be forced. They can be encouraged and supported by strong corporate culture and authenticity in leadership, and it would be hard to overstate the importance of this encouragement and support. Creativity can be a strong business asset and competitive differentiator, and it’s something that robots and artificial intelligence can’t duplicate.

If you’re interested in learning more about leadership and its effects on culture, I encourage you to check out my books. Leadership isn’t only about making sure KPIs are fulfilled. It can also have tremendous influence over how creative and innovative teams are, and creativity and innovation are assets that no business in today’s world can do without.

The post Authentic Leaders Drive Creativity and Innovation: Here’s How appeared first on John Mattone.

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In 2017, American individuals and companies spent $1 billion on coaching, and growth in the coaching industry indicates that more people understand what coaching is for and what it can accomplish.

Together, the right coach with the right client can make enormous strides in leadership performance.

Leadership coaches can facilitate improved performance and help new leaders deliver results sooner. But if someone simply isn’t ready to be coached, significant money and time can be wasted.

Sometimes not being ready for coaching simply means not being ready for coaching because of something outside the client’s control, such as a major project that doesn’t allow time for commitment to coaching. Other times, however, lack of readiness has more to do with a client’s inner qualities.

Lack of Readiness for Leadership Coaching Leads to Lack of Results

If you engage a leadership coach without fundamental readiness for coaching, you won’t get the kind of results you would if you maximized your readiness first. Leadership coaches can facilitate amazing results, but those results require substantial commitment on the part of both themselves and their client.

How much good would LeBron James’ coach do for you if you never practice basketball, don’t really understand the game, and aren’t even sure you’ll be interested in six months’ time? It’s easy to see how big a waste of resources it would be. Similarly, if you’re not developed as a professional, even the best leadership coach can’t do much to make up for it.

Signs that Someone Is Not Ready for Leadership Coaching

People who lack readiness for leadership coaching (or any other kind of coaching, for that matter), are ones who display these behaviors:

  • They always have an excuse and blame external factors for problems. Coaching requires extensive introspection and accepting responsibility, and if you can’t do that, coaching won’t work.
  • They can’t manage their calendar well enough to work coaching sessions into their schedule. When something is important enough, you make time for it.
  • They only care about performance tips and other “tactical” solutions to strategic problems. Leadership coaching goes right to the heart of performance and strategy. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • They can never find a coach who they believe is right for them. As important as it is to have strong rapport with a coach, if you wait for the “perfect” coach, you’ll be waiting forever.

If your first response to a problem is to find someone to blame, you’re not ready to be coached.

Characteristics of Someone Who Is Ready for Coaching

By contrast, someone who is ready for coaching is self-aware without being self-absorbed. They are not afraid to look within and identify their strengths and weaknesses, so they can magnify the former and address the latter. People who are ready for coaching are responsible and accountable. They’re trustworthy, and if they give you their word on something, you can count on them.

Coachable people are curious. They have no illusion that there’s nothing left to learn now that they’ve reached the top. They know that change is all around, and they know there is always more to learn. Coachable people are also resilient. They know how to listen to feedback, accept their own shortcomings, and do the work to address them. They’re neither thin-skinned nor arrogant.

Ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly to learn if you’re ready for coaching:

  • Am I willing to make the time commitment that leadership coaching requires?
  • Is my supervisor supportive of my being coached?
  • Am I disciplined enough to do the work involved in coaching?
  • Am I ready to ask for and accept feedback, and then to act upon it?
  • Do I have the determination to consistently practice new behaviors to bring about long-term change?

Leadership coaching can facilitate significant, measurable performance gains, but the success of coaching depends heavily on the readiness and willingness of the person being coached. If you’re honest with yourself and realize you’re not ready for coaching, it’s time to identify the reasons why and work on them. Just as the concept of “mise en place” is fundamental for the master chef’s readiness to create something wonderful in the kitchen, readiness for coaching is equally as necessary for an effective coaching engagement.

If you want to know more about leadership speaking, coaching, and readiness for coaching, I encourage you to check out my books , particularly Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential, which goes into depth on the subject of developing strong leadership skills.

The post Am I Ready for Leadership Coaching? Here’s How to Tell. appeared first on John Mattone.

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Companies and individuals invest in executive coaching because they want results, and executive coaching has a track record of delivering them.

Excellence in leadership leads to excellence in business results.

Tangible benefits of executive coaching include better performance, cost reduction, and higher profitability. Intangible benefits of executive coaching include better working relationships between leaders and their team members, better work distribution, and overall better corporate culture.

What types of things to executive coaches work on with their clients? Of course, it’s different with every client, but there are some executive skills that coaches find they are frequently requested to help with. Here are four skills that executive coaches and their clients regularly work on together.

1. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence embodies the skills required for people to be attuned to their own and others’ emotions, to understand situations accurately, and to generally be able to tailor actions to the situation to get the best possible results. Leaders lacking in emotional intelligence simply don’t get the results that leaders with strong emotional intelligence do.

Executive coaches frequently work with clients on developing key emotional intelligence skills like:

  • Self-assessment
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Relationship management
2. Delegation and Empowerment Skills

The ability to delegate effectively is valuable in getting great results with maximum efficiency. But delegation involves much more than just work distribution. Delegation must also be an element in empowerment of team members so that everyone knows they have the agency to solve problems and not just carry out a list of tasks.

Delegating to team members who have psychological “ownership” of their roles not only gets work done efficiently, it improves the quality of the work. Team members who feel entrusted by their leaders to make crucial decisions related to their roles are far more productive than those who consider themselves as terminal worker-ants who are only expected to cross tasks off a list.

3. Conflict Resolution Skills

Nobody likes dealing with workplace conflict, but strong leaders know when and how to step in and help the parties resolve issues and move forward.

Conflict in business is inevitable, and leaders who turn a blind eye, or who only intervene in the most severe conflicts do their companies and their teams a disservice. Nobody likes wading into a conflict and trying to sort it out, but effective leaders know when they need to, and they know how to do it effectively.

Conflict resolution skills are closely intertwined with other leadership skills, like empathy, perspective, problem-solving, and communication. Few people are natural experts at conflict resolution, and many executive coaches work with their clients on developing this remarkably valuable leadership skill.

4. Communication Skills

Communication skills prevent or short-circuit misunderstandings, and they motivate people to excellence. How might the course of the American Civil War have been different had Abraham Lincoln not delivered the Gettysburg Address in the middle of the darkest chapter in American history? And it wasn’t even the primary speech given on that occasion!

Good communication is clear and honest, and it involves listening as well as talking. Each leader must understand their own communication style, which methods they use best, and how they can improve. Bad communication wastes time, leads to conflict, and ultimately causes morale to suffer, and that’s why so many executive coaches work with clients to develop better communication skills.

Executive coaches develop a plan of action with every client, and those plans of action frequently involve the development of the skills listed here. Coaching isn’t magic, and it doesn’t happen without hard work and commitment on the part of both coach and client. Skills like emotional intelligence, delegation, conflict resolution, and communication are essential leadership skills, and anyone with determination can improve them, whether or not they are leaders. If you’re interested in learning more, I invite you to explore my CEO coaching and leadership coaching services.

The post What Can an Executive Coach Help With? These 4 Things. appeared first on John Mattone.

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